Top 18 Must-See Sri Lanka Tourist Destinations for Your 2023 Journey

by operator

Are you longing to escape from the demands of work and venture to a distant land, far away from the chaos? Are you in search of a tranquil retreat where you can unwind on a hammock and release all your worries? If so, then a journey to Sri Lanka is the ultimate remedy for your soul. With its unspoiled beaches, diverse landscapes, and breathtaking scenery, Sri Lanka has a plethora of experiences to offer. So, pack your metaphorical bags and let’s explore the finest attractions that Sri Lanka has to offer.

But before we proceed any further, let’s first acquaint ourselves with the essentials. Sri Lanka is renowned for its magnificent beaches, and the heartland of this island nation is also brimming with treasures waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the must-see tourist destinations in Sri Lanka.

18 Superb Sri Lanka Tourist Places

When planning your next vacation to this serene country, make sure to include these incredible Sri Lanka tourist places on your itinerary. Here is a comprehensive list of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, where you can immerse yourself in tranquility away from the hustle and bustle.

– The Dambulla Cave Temple – A temple complex of grand proportions, unrivaled in Sri Lanka.

– Yala National Park – A sanctuary for a myriad of wildlife and bird species.

– Arugam Bay – A turquoise haven for thrill-seekers.

– Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa – Majestic remnants of ancient civilizations amidst lush greenery.

– Galle – A marvel from the 16th century.

– Jaffna – A glimpse into the past.

– The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Kandy – A tribute to the brave martyrs.

– Temple of Tooth at Kandy – A feast for the eyes and the soul.

– Nuwara Eliya – A gateway to pristine nature.

– Trincomalee – An irresistible beach getaway.

– Polonnaruwa Sacred City – A journey into the gilded history of Sri Lanka.

– Anuradhapura – The grandest monastic city of the ancient world.

– Nine Arch Bridge – A bridge suspended amidst the heavens.

– Mihintale – The birthplace of Buddhism.

– Udawalawe National Park – A must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

– Ravana Falls – Behold the awe-inspiring sight of this magnificent waterfall.

Dambulla-Cave-Temple_23rd oct

– Adam’s Peak – A sacred pilgrimage site of great significance.

– Mount Lavinia – A vibrant neighborhood that captivates.

1. The Dambulla Cave Temple – The Largest Temple Complex In Sri Lanka

The most renowned among the finest places to visit in Sri Lanka is the Dambulla Cave Temple. It reigns as the pinnacle of Sri Lanka’s tourist destinations. This temple complex, boasting the largest size in the country, houses extraordinary statues and paintings dating back to the 12th century AD. It comprises five chambers of varying sizes, with serene Buddha statues adorning each room. The temple is perched atop a rugged black mountain, creating a striking contrast against the temple’s white walls. Don’t miss the panoramic view from the summit. The temple is easily accessible from both Colombo and Kandy.

Famous For: Historical significance

Things To Do: Explore the magnificent architecture, indulge in sightseeing

Must Read: Discover 31 Reasons Why a Vacation in Sri Lanka Is Not to Be Missed!

2. Yala National Park – A Sanctuary for Wildlife and Bird Enthusiasts

Do not miss the opportunity to explore Yala National Park during your trip to Sri Lanka if you are a lover of wildlife and birds. This park is a haven for various species of animals and birds, where you can witness elephants splashing around in streams, playfully swinging their trunks, and leopards resting lazily on tree branches. You can choose between exciting safari drives or embark on nature trails through the dense greenery of the forest. Some adventurous tourists even opt to camp in Yala and enjoy a delightful barbecue under the celestial stars. With its abundance of attractions, Yala undeniably ranks among the top tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, especially for those interested in wildlife photography.

Yala-National-Park-in-Sri-Lanka_23rd oct

Reaching Yala National Park is a straightforward process. Simply drive down from Colombo to the park, or alternatively, you can take a bus that will drop you off at Tissamaharama.

Renowned For: Wildlife, Flora & FaunaExciting Activities: Wildlife Safari, TrekkingLocation: Katagamuwa, Yala, Sri LankaOpening Hours: 6 am to 6 pm

3. Arugam Bay – Heavenly Paradise for Thrill Seekers

Stretching across over 1600 kilometers, Sri Lanka boasts a magnificent coastline that is perfect for various water sports such as windsurfing and speed boating. Arugam Bay, with its picturesque azure skies and gently swaying coconut trees, is an absolute delight for surfers craving exhilarating experiences amidst turquoise waters. If you are seeking a true tropical adventure, make sure to include Arugam Bay in your list of must-visit tourist spots in Sri Lanka. This coastal gem is located approximately 320 kilometers to the southeast of Colombo.

A professional sea surfing at Arugam Bay on a Sri Lankan beach

Arugam Bay offers the ideal setting to sip refreshing coconut water, breathe in the enchanting fragrance of jasmine, and bask under the radiant southern sun, giving your skin a beautiful tan.

Apart from Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka is also home to other remarkable beaches that are among the best destinations to visit, including Unawatuna in the South and Tangalla, situated around 195 kilometers south of Colombo.

How to Get There: Colombo is home to an international airport, strategically located for easy access to the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

Renowned For: Seashore DestinationsExciting Activities: Surfing, SnorkelingFlight Charges from India: INR 15,000 for adults if booked two months in advanceBest Beaches near Colombo: Benota, Mirissa, Koggala, Trincomalee, Pasikudah, Unawatuna, Tangalla, and Arugam BayBest Time to Visit: Between November and MarchRecommended Hotels: Weligama Bay Resort, The Fortress Resort Galle, Palace Mirissa, and Number One Mirissa

Sigiriya is one of the popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka

4. Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa – A Blend of Majesty and Serene Greenery

Sigiriya, also known as the “mount of remembrance,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most awe-inspiring places to explore in Sri Lanka. This colossal rock formation emerges unexpectedly, towering over its surroundings. Climbing to the top requires some effort, but the reward is a mesmerizing panoramic view of the neighboring attractions and the historic Sigiriya fort. This rock fortress, clinging to its rocky perch, is a captivating testament to the country’s rich history and is definitely worth a visit.

Polonnaruwa, a place often overlooked, but comparable to the renowned Petra of the southern region, is an ancient city that boasts remarkable architecture and sturdy columns. This intriguing destination stands as a precious gem among Sri Lanka’s tourist attractions. To truly immerse yourself in its beauty, it is highly recommended to rent a bicycle and explore the ruins with a touch of adventure. The site itself is meticulously preserved, offering a profound glimpse into the history and culture of Sri Lanka. Accessing Polonnaruwa is made easy through Sigiriya, where you can conveniently take a tuk-tuk or bus. Alternatively, a bus journey from Dambulla to Polonnaruwa is also a viable option.

Galle-Fort_24th oct

For accommodation purposes, here are some of the finest hotels to consider: Jetwing Vil Uyana, Camelia Resort and Spa, Hotel Sigiriya, Camellia Resort and Spa, and Lal Homestay.

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Moving on to our next destination, Galle, a city of utmost significance in Sri Lanka, offers a fulfilling experience where you can have it all. The Galle Fort, undoubtedly one of the top attractions in Sri Lanka, features picturesque cobblestoned roads and an array of delightful eateries and cafes. Be sure to witness the captivating sunset during your visit. Additionally, there are numerous trinket shops and galleries that are worth exploring. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the serene beauty of the Japanese Peace Pagoda, which sits in close proximity to the mesmerizing Unawatuna beach.

Jaffna fort is one of the key tourist spots in Sri Lanka

Below are the top-notch hotels to consider for your stay: Jetwing Lighthouse, Amangalla, Tamarind Hill, Apa Villa Thalpe, and The Fortress.

Now let’s delve into Jaffna, a vibrant destination that offers a glimpse into the past. Although the temple of Nallur Kovil may be quite crowded, it is still a worthy inclusion among the best places to see in Sri Lanka. Another notable attraction is the Jaffna Fort, a central hub for tourists in the city. If you happen to be in Jaffna, you cannot miss a visit to Nagadipa Purana Vihara, a serene temple accessible by boat. This sanctuary exudes tranquility and is an ideal spot for meditation.

For your accommodation needs, consider staying at PJ Hotels or Morgans.

The Commonwealth War Cemetery in Sri Lanka

As we continue our journey, let us not forget the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Kandy, a unique inclusion in the list of Sri Lanka’s best places to visit. This well-maintained cemetery pays tribute to the brave martyrs and provides a humbling experience for visitors. Although finding the cemetery without a guide may prove challenging, the effort is certainly worthwhile once you reach its solemn grounds.

Location: Kandy, Sri Lanka

Timings: 7 am to 4 pm

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8. Kandy’s Temple Of the Tooth – A Visual and Spiritual Delight

The temple of the tooth is a renowned attraction in Sri Lanka that draws in countless tourists. Its significance lies in its rich history and captivating artifacts, making it a must-visit destination.

Temple of Tooth in Kandy

Where to Find It: Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy 20000, Sri Lanka

Operating Hours: From 5.30 am to 8 pm

9. Nuwara Eliya – Embrace the Untouched Beauty of Nature

Nuwara Eliya is widely known for its enchanting tea gardens and breathtaking landscapes. It offers a perfect retreat for romantic getaways or those seeking tranquility. With mist-covered clouds, verdant hills rolling beneath the sky, and a whimsical train reminiscent of scenes from the Harry Potter films, Nuwara Eliya is a paradise nestled in the hills. It truly adds to the roster of captivating tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Some of the must-visit places in Nuwara Eliya include Victoria Park, Bale Bazaar, Moon Plains, Ramboda Falls, and St. Clair’s Falls.

The lush green hill station of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka

10. Trincomalee – An Irresistible Beach Getaway

Trincomalee, among the numerous captivating touristic destinations in Sri Lanka, boasts a stunning beach. If you fancy embarking on an underwater diving adventure, SLDT (Sri Lanka Diving Tours) guarantees an unparalleled experience. Apart from thrilling water sports, Trincomalee also offers a plethora of temples and beaches. Additionally, the presence of a war cemetery surrounded by lush gardens makes this place one of the finest attractions in Sri Lanka.

The beautiful beach at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka

11. Polonnaruwa Sacred City – Uncover Sri Lanka’s Glorious Ancient Past

Once a majestic kingdom of Sri Lanka, the Polonnaruwa Sacred City still exudes the charm of its golden era. With remnants of palaces, shrines, and stupas, it stands as one of the most popular attractions in Sri Lanka. These historical landmarks provide a glimpse into the splendid past of this region, adding to its allure. The city offers an abundance of treasures to explore, serving as a time capsule of Sri Lanka’s golden history. It is undoubtedly one of the finest destinations in Sri Lanka.


Main Highlights: Don’t miss the statue of Parakramabahu I, who reigned during the golden age, and be awestruck by the breathtaking view of the Lotus Pond, an architectural marvel with its lotus-shaped petals and four-tiered design.

12. Anuradhapura – Ancient World’s Most Magnificent Monastic City

This outstanding attraction in Sri Lanka holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its significance stems from the arrival of the Bodhi Tree, commonly referred to as the “tree of enlightenment.” The city took extraordinary measures to protect this sacred tree from the threat of wild elephants during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rangasingha.


Optimal Time to Visit: April and SeptemberLocation: It is situated along the Anuradhapura-Padeniya highway, taking approximately hoursAdmission Price: $25 (INR – 1781)

13. Nine Arch Bridge – The Majestic Skyborne Bridge

Known as the Bridge in the sky, the mesmerizing Nine Arch Bridge ranks among Sri Lanka’s most iconic tourist destinations. Located in the quaint mountain town of Ella, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the lush greenery and tea plantations that stretch as far as the eye can see. What sets this bridge apart is its unconventional construction, consisting solely of stone, brick, and cement, void of any steel. It is an unparalleled vacation spot in Sri Lanka that promises an unforgettable experience. 

bridge in sri lanka

Preferred Time to Visit: Sunrise

14. Mihintale – The Cradle of Buddhism

As one of the top tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, Mihintale serves as the birthplace of Buddhism and draws hundreds of pilgrims each year. Situated on a mountain near the town of Anuradhapura, this site boasts numerous religious and historical structures waiting to be explored. 

Mihintale, monastic city of Buddhism in Sri Lanka

15. Udawalawe National Park – A Wonderland for Wildlife Enthusiasts

For wildlife enthusiasts, Udawalawe National Park is an absolute must-visit. It stands as one of the few places where elephant sightings are a regular occurrence. Alongside elephants, you will have the opportunity to spot various other captivating creatures, including peacocks, water buffalo, crocodiles, jackals, monkeys, and deer. To witness the wildlife at its peak activity, embark on an early morning safari, ensuring an unmatched experience at this premier attraction in Sri Lanka

Udawalawe National Park Cover

Location: Udawalawa, Sri LankaOperating Hours: 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM

16. Ravana Falls – Witness the Breathtaking Majesty of the Captivating Cascade

Embark on a journey to behold the enchanting Ravana Falls, one of the renowned attractions in Sri Lanka. This awe-inspiring waterfall presents a majestic spectacle, particularly during the rainy season. Situated along the main road leading to Ella, it serves as a common stop for travelers. In the scorching summer months, visitors indulge in the refreshing experience of bathing under the falls. Undoubtedly, it ranks among the most remarkable waterfalls in Sri Lanka.

A shot of the Ravana Falls in Ella region in Sri Lanka

Where is it located? Colombo – Galle – Hambantota – Wellawaya Rd, Ella 90900, Sri Lanka Opening hours: Open 24 hours

Explore: Discover the Fascinating Waterfalls of Sri Lanka!

17. Adam’s Peak – A Sacred Destination for Pilgrims

Another famed attraction in Sri Lanka is Adam’s Peak, a place of great significance to various religions. At its summit, you will find an imprint of a foot cast in stone, carrying deep spiritual meaning. Many pilgrims undertake the arduous trek to the top on nights with a full moon. They often commence their journey around 3 AM to reach the peak by sunrise, allowing them to witness a breathtaking panorama. Additionally, it is highly recommended as one of the romantic honeymoon spots in Sri Lanka.

sri pada sri lanka

Where is it located? Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka

18. Mount Lavinia – An Alluring Neighborhood

honeplus for Wikimedia

Indulge in the captivating charm of Mount Lavinia, one of the most captivating tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. This area entices visitors with its vibrant nightlife and the renowned Golden Mile Beach. A stay at the luxurious Mount Lavinia Hotel is highly recommended to enhance your experience. Centrally located, it offers breathtaking views of Colombo’s skyline. Enjoy delicious seafood by the enchanting Mount Lavinia beach and much more. This is an unmissable gem of Sri Lanka tourism, complimented by the presence of some of the finest beaches in Sri Lanka.

Opening hours: 7 am to 7 pm

Explore: Uncover the Pristine Beaches of Sri Lanka!

Read more: Koggala Beach: An All-Encompassing Guide to Discover this Hidden Gem in Sri Lanka

Optimal Time to Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka boasts a climate that avoids extremes, making it an appealing destination throughout the year. However, the ideal time to visit varies according to the region you wish to explore. For the Highlands, West Coast, and South Coast, December to March is highly recommended. On the other hand, May to September is the perfect time to indulge in the pristine beauty of the Eastern Coasts.

Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka

If you desire an overseas adventure with the added benefit of favorable exchange rates, consider booking your trip to Sri Lanka. Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and diverse beauty of this extraordinary destination. These top tourist places in Sri Lanka promise an exceptional experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Tourist Places in Sri Lanka

How safe is Sri Lanka amidst the Coronavirus pandemic?

The Sri Lankan government and the tourist department are diligently implementing strict measures to combat the challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak. Tourists from China are prohibited from visa-on-arrival, and screening tests are conducted at international airports to ensure public safety.

Which are the most breathtaking places in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is blessed with numerous awe-inspiring attractions. Some of the most breathtaking places in the country include Polonnaruwa, Yala National Park, Temple of the Tooth Relic, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Adams Peak, Nuwara Eliya, and Beira Lake.

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